The Xiaomi Mi 4i and the Asus Zenfone 2 couldn’t be anymore different. One is made by a Chinese startup smartphone company, while the other is made by a Taiwanese OEM/ODM. One of them is a phone “Made for India,” whereas the other is a global flagship. One has a 64-bit Qualcomm SoC using ARM cores, whereas the other has an 64-bit Intel Atom chipset. One has a 5-inch display, the other uses different 5.5-inch displays for different versions.
The prices are different too. The Mi 4i is priced at INR 13,000. And the Zenfone 2 is priced at – err, there are in total four versions depending on display resolution, processor, RAM and storage.
The cheapest version of the Zenfone 2, the ZE550ML, has been launched at INR 13,000 – the same price as that of the Mi 4i. The ZE551ML 2GB version upgrades the screen resolution to 1080p and keeps the rest same. For that, the price is increased to INR 15,000.
Then there are the Zenfone 2 4GB versions, which increase the RAM as well as the clock speed of the processor, but these can’t be compared to the Mi 4i, as they’re in a completely different price bracket. The ZE551ML 4GB RAM phone comes in two versions: 32GB and 64GB respectively (both of them with microSD). They’ll be available at INR 20,000 and INR 23,000 respectively.
The 4GB versions – a first for an Android phone – are obviously designed to compete with the OnePlus One and the Xiaomi Mi4. The clock speed increase is nice to have, but the price increase is actually more than the performance increase.
So we’re more interested in comparing the Zenfone 2 2GB RAM versions, which means comparing the Zenfone 2 ZE550ML and the ZE551ML with the Xiaomi Mi 4i. Phew. (Side note: next time Asus makes a flagship smartphone, it’s essential to think out a better naming strategy).
Both of these phones were interestingly launched in India the same day on April 23, although of course the Zenfone 2 was announced back in January and has released in quite a few countries.
As far sales are concerned, right now both versions of the Zenfone 2 2GB RAM are showing as “Out of Stock” on Flipkart. On the other hand, registration for the Xiaomi Mi 4i is still ongoing for the April 30 sale.
So when we state these phones are incredibly popular right now, no surprise. Also, it won’t be surprising to see them go out of stock in minutes after they go on sale with wider availability.
Therefore, if you want one of them, you’d better act fast. But then the question comes: which is better?
Let’s take a look at the specifications comparison…
Xiaomi Mi 4i vs. Zenfone 2 ZE550ML and ZE551ML 2GB RAM: specifications inspection
|Xiaomi Mi 4i||Asus Zenfone 2 ZE550ML 2GB RAM||Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML 2GB RAM|
|SoC||Octa-core 1.7GHz/1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615||Quad-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z3560||Quad-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z3560|
|Storage||16GB NAND||16GB NAND + microSD||16GB NAND + microSD|
|Display||5-inch 1080p IPS LCD||5.5-inch 720p IPS LCD||5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD|
|Dimensions||138.1 x 69.6 x 7.8 mm, weight 130g||152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm, weight 170g||152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm, weight 170g|
|Rear camera||13MP Rear Facing with 1.1 micron pixels, 1/3″ CMOS Sony/Samsung sensor, f/2.0 aperture.||13MP Rear Facing with 1.1 micron pixels, 1/3″ CMOS sensor, f/2.0 aperture.||13MP Rear Facing with 1.1 micron pixels, 1/3″ CMOS sensor, f/2.0 aperture.
|Front facing camera||5MP||5MP||5MP|
|OS||Android 5.0 Lollipop + MIUI 6||Android 5.0 Lollipop + ZenUI||Android 5.0 Lollipop + ZenUI|
Quite a showdown above. The components couldn’t be more different. Taking a look at each major component, we’ll start with the overall category of the devices.
Phone vs. phablet
The Xiaomi Mi 4i is a standard phone with a 5-inch display. At one time, 5-inches may have been excessive, but that time is past. Particularly, after 2013 and 2014’s flagship devices, 5-inch is like the minimum size for something not called an iPhone. It also feels nearly the optimum size, with OEMs settling for between 5-inches and 5.5-inches when it comes to deciding for the display sizes of their flagships.
With the flagships now at 5-inch+ and the budget phones following suit, it’s therefore no surprise to see Xiaomi put a 5-inch panel in the mid-range Mi 4i, making it one-hand friendly and improving usability. On the other hand, display size takes a hit, so less content will be available, impacting the experience. It’s a trade-off either way.
Asus is proud of the fact that the Zenfone 2 with its 5.5-inch display has a screen-to-body ratio of 70%, which is pretty good on its own. However the Mi 4i beats it with a 71% screen-to-body ratio, and both of them are inferior to LG’s G3, which packs a 5.5-inch display with 75% screen-to-body ratio.
The Zenfone 2, therefore, is unashamedly a phablet. It means that you’ll get a lot of screen real-estate, but at the cost of one-handed usability and phone size. Choose your pick.
At the end of the day, if you want a smaller phone and when one-handed use is a must for you, then you’re going to want the 5-inch Mi 4i. You want as much screen as you can have? The Zenfone 2 is for you then, but keep in mind the resolution.
In its ZE550ML version, the Zenfone 2 has a 5.5-inch 720p display having 267 PPI – quite low in 2015, especially when phones like the Yu Yureka have a similar display for INR 9000. Whereas the ZE551ML has a 5.5-inch 1080p display having 403 PPI – excellent just like the iPhone 6 Plus and a lot of other phablets.
The Mi 4i has a 1080p display at 5-inches, giving a pixel density of 440 PPI, in-line with flagships like the HTC One M9 and One M8, Xiaomi’s own Mi4 and others.
But what about the actual quality of these displays apart from resolution? As in, brightness and contrast, viewing angles, colour calibration and sunlight legibility.
The Zenfone 2 has a pretty good display with average brightness and contrast according to multiple reviews, no major problems but still, room for improvement. (And what about the colour calibration?).
While we haven’t had a chance to use these phones yet, Xiaomi is boasting about sunlight legibility. The panel comes with adaptive brightness technology, called Sunlight display, which improves its legibility when outdoors. It means brightening darker areas under direct light.
The conclusion is: the Mi 4i sunlight legibility improvements look interesting, and the plus point to the Mi 4i is that at the INR 13,000 price point, it’s offering a clearly better (though smaller) display than the Zenfone 2 ZE550ML. The resolution advantage is negated though when we compare with the Zenfone 2 ZE551ML – although that is more expensive.
The microSD debate
You thought you’d had it with reading what seemed like millions of global comments ruing the death of the microSD card slot in Samsung’s latest Galaxy S6. Well, much of that situation is repeating itself in India here with the Xiaomi Mi 4i, which only has a 16GB version as of writing, with no options to expand it through microSD.
The situation though is far more serious here for Xiaomi. One, the Galaxy S6 comparison is moot since that phone’s base version still has 32GB of UFS storage. The Mi 4i, just like the Mi4 before it (initially), goes straight with half of that amount, 16GB and 16GB only.
As readers are quick to point out, loss of this functionality means a regression of flexibility when compared to even Xiaomi’s own budget phones such as the Redmi 2 and the now outdated Redmi Note, which do have a microSD card slot (there, it’s even more vital since they have only 8GB of internal storage).
A person could buy the Redmi 2 with 8GB of storage and place a 32GB microSD card, having 35GB (approx) storage, while the Mi 4i will be stuck with roughly 12GB. It’s true that Android has gotten more difficult when it comes to integrating microSD storage, but even then, it’s still useful for local, media files.
It’s a big blow against the chances of the Mi 4i, because here in India, the consumers love their flexibility especially when you see how dual SIM is so popular. For all the “Made for India” marketing, the Mi 4i loses a key component of what makes Indian consumers buy a phone.
It’s also a place where competitors like Asus can rightly claim advantage, and they have done so. The Zenfone 2 2GB RAM versions have the same amount of internal storage at 16GB (speed of the NAND of both phones is unknown at this point). But they do have microSD support, allowing for cheap expansion.
The advantages that you don’t get the low memory warning if you have a decent size microSD card, and it can also improve performance by keeping more internal storage free. Big, big advantage.
The RAM is same for all three phones at 2GB, which should be enough for multitasking and a smooth UI experience at this price range.
The conclusion: No contest here, the Zenfone 2 wins by a huge margin. Xiaomi has to do better.
The SoC: Qualcomm vs. Intel
By now, the Snapdragon 615 is a known quantity, with its dual quad Cortex-A53 clusters and the Adreno 405 GPU (which delivers performance similar to the Adreno 320 found in 2013 flagships). However heating problems with several phones such as the Yu Yureka and HTC Desire 826 using this chip have been noted by the users, making it worrying for many to see Xiaomi opting for it.
Xiaomi though, says this chip is new, a “2nd-generation Snapdragon 615,” with higher clocks. The CPU clocks for the clusters are now at 1.7GHz and 1GHz. It remains to be seen how much the performance has been improved. Through the sheer power of numbers, naturally AnTuTu scores will rise, but we’ll say it again, we’re not interested in AnTuTu scores, we’re interested in real-world device performance.
In terms of single-threaded performance, the Snapdragon 615 with the Cortex-A53 cores is at an obvious disadvantage when it comes to comparing with Krait 400 cores present in the Snapdragon 800 / 801 phones such as Xiaomi’s own Mi3, which sold last year at the same price point in India before being discontinued.
When it comes to the GPU, we’re essentially talking Adreno 320-class performance, coupled with a 1080p display, which should lead to good-but-not-great gaming performance, especially when throttling comes into the picture. Slide down the graphics slider and you should be able to get smooth frame rates, but that really depends on the requirements of a particular game. Again, a downgrade compared to the Mi3, which used the Adreno 330 GPU.
No such problem will be faced by the Zenfone 2 though, in both the ZE550ML and the ZE551ML versions. It’s simply using newer generation, more powerful silicon by Intel. The CPU is on-par with, and sometimes beats the Snapdragon 800 and 801. And yes, we’re talking of both single-threaded performance and multi-threaded performance.
The GPU is also an easy win for the Zenfone 2. It’s using the PowerVR G6430, the same GPU used by the iPhone 5s. While the iPhone 5s has an advantage by having to render less pixels, both the 720p and 1080p Zenfone 2 versions should have no problem with most games available at the Play Store and high frame rates can be enjoyed along with higher resolution.
Conclusion: Again, no contest. While the higher clocks of the Snapdragon 615 coupled with twice the number of cores can help reduce the gap in multi-threaded performance, the single-threaded performance and GPU performance is another thing entirely.
The Mi 4i should still offer enough performance for most users, but the Zenfone 2 is simply superior.
For the most part, Android smartphone cameras have been controversial: even the flagships aren’t exempt from controversy. (See the HTC One M9 camera coverage). It’s because by and large, Android smartphone makers haven’t figured out what it takes to make a fully balanced mobile camera, a camera that gives you good results come daylight and low-light.
Both Xiaomi and Asus have historically made good smartphone cameras. It’s incredible to see the quality of the images taken by Xiaomi’s Redmi 2 at an INR 7000 price point, and the Mi4’s 13MP camera also shot great daylight images, but struggled a bit in low-light (for the price point).
Asus, too, shipped a great camera with the Zenfone 5 last year, a factor which made that smartphone incredibly popular in India throughout 2014.
So what’s the situation now? We do know that the Mi 4i camera is not exactly the same as that of the Mi4. It’s supposed to be even better, according to Xiaomi. Further conclusions can only be made once the reviews are published.
The Zenfone 2 reviews, on the other hand, are being published as we speak, and it’s not good news when it comes to the camera. Unfortunately, Asus entered in the 1.1 micron megapixel race without taking proper precautions such as better image processing, exposure combining or binning in low-light and the usual tricks such as ‘True-Tone’ flash.
By default, a 1.1 micron 13MP 1/3″ camera won’t have great performance because of the reduced pixel sensitivity. It means the precision is lower than a normal 8MP 1.4 micron sensor. To combat this, Asus should have used more mature image processing (noise reduction and bringing out detail), which they haven’t done so.
It’s clear to be seen by observing the samples posted on multiple websites that as it stands now, the Zenfone 2 camera could use a lot of improvement. It’s a long way behind other 13MP cameras such as the LG G2, Xiaomi Mi4 and the OnePlus One.
Even in daylight, you can see a lot of noise and even more noise reduction, and low-light predictably falls apart. The harsh statement to be made is that it’s not competitive enough even in the mid-range category. Against the Mi 4i? It’s likely that the latter will have a better camera by a considerable margin.
We haven’t got into details regarding battery life and the software since details on both still aren’t out there. Reviewers with the Zenfone 2 are getting average battery life, but Asus says that it’s still working on improving that.
Last but not least, the software experience. It’s a subjective thing whether you prefer MIUI 6 or ZenUI, both of them based on Android 5.0 Lollipop, one version behind the latest-and-greatest. Things like UI smoothness for the Xiaomi Mi 4i are also yet to be elucidated.
As you can tell, right now the saga for both of these phones, like the Galaxy S6, is just starting.
Keep in touch by getting free updates from MobiKraze, and stay tuned for more in-depth analysis of these phones and our holistic conclusions gathered from such findings.
Pingback: Microsoft Lumia 640 XL preview()
Pingback: The Yu Yuphoria is official: metal frame, Snapdragon 410 and 8MP camera at INR 7000()